Among many Ukrainian villages scattered throughout the Carpathian mountains, the village Kryvorivnya in the Verkhovyna County of Ivano-Frankivsk region, is perhaps the heart of Hutsul traditions. It’s absolutely stunning place in the Carpathians.
The village is aptly named Kryvorivnya (crooked plain) as the rugged mountainous landscape poses a challenge to an unaccustomed city slicker as the distance between some of the houses is basically a climbing expedition with a high level complexity.
Picturesque Kryvorivnya village, which also stretches along the Cheremosh River, was a popular resting place and a source of inspiration for Ukrainian writers and historians, including Ivan Franko, Mykhailo Kotsyubynskiy, Mykhailo Hrushevskiy and Lesya Ukrayinka. In the XIXth century, Kryvorivnya was a place of pilgrimage of Ukrainian literati. Because of many famous writers, poets and politicians who lived here Kryvorivnya is also called the Ukrainian Athens.
History of Kryvorivnya
Verkhovyna District is one of the historical Hutsul centers. Due to the inaccessibility of the mountains, modern civilization with its urbanized society could not influence this territory where the Hutsuls live. Here, many interesting customs, traditions, legends, and crafts are still preserved, while they have already disappeared in other regions.
Verkhovyna, known as Zhab‘ye until 1962, was first referred to in written records in 1424. After the First Division of Poland between Austria, Prussia, and Russia in 1772, the territory of Verkhovyna District became a part of Austria. Inequality of property, national oppression, and callous exploitation of the population in these mountainous villages led to mass uprisings by the peasants. The Opryshky movement was one of the forms of the peasants’ struggle against the existing system. Many rural residents of Zhab‘ye belonged to the detachments of Olexa Dovbush, Pysklyvyi, Pinta, Boychuk, and Bayurak. The new form of the independence movement in the XIXth century was the so-called viche — the mass meeting of peasants.
During World War I, the nearby neighborhoods of Zhab‘ye and other villages were the battlegrounds of the Austrian and Russian armies. Many Hutsuls fought with the Austrian army, especially in the Ukrainian Sichovi Striltsi Legion. Our counterparts still fought for national independence after the capture of Halychyna by Poland. In April 1920, an uprising took place but it was suppressed by the Polish Government. After Germany attacked Poland on September 17, 1939, the territory of Western Ukraine was occupied by the Red Army. The shortsighted economic policies of the Soviet Government led to the abuse of the environment and intensive deforestation for the sake of building industrial enterprises, all of which had a stark negative effect on the District’s social and economic development. However, Ukrainian independence brought considerable positive changes to the economic, social, and cultural life of the District, and the spiritual life of the Hutsuls witnessed a revival.
In every village we can find reconstructed or newly built churches with outstanding wall paintings. The reconstruction of streets and squares has begun, and most towns have artistic folk-groups known far beyond the borders of Ukraine.
Geographical location of Kryvorivnya
Verkhovyna District is situated in the eastern part of Ivano-Frankivsk Region, in the highest part of the Ukrainian Carpathians. The administrative, economic and cultural center of the district is the town Verkhovyna (620m above sea level), situated on the bank of the Chorniy Cheremosh River, 150 kilometers from the regional center and 31 kilometers from the railway station Vorokhta. Verkhovyna District borders Transcarpathian Region to the west, Nadvirna District to the northwest, Kosiv District of Ivano-Frankivsk Region to the north, Chernivtsi Region to the east and Romania to the west. The District occupies an area of 126.3 thousand hectares and has a population of 32.2 thousand people. Within the District’s territory are some of the highest points of the East Carpathians, among them the second highest peak — the Pip Ivan Mountain (2020 m).
Nearly the entire territory is covered with forests, and the hydro system is well saturated: the Cheremosh River is the District’s deepest, and the total area of its basin within the District is 2565 sq. km. The District has some of the richest deposits of mineral waters. There are more than 100 mineral springs — the two villages of Verkhovyna and Burkut alone have a total of 10 explored mineral springs. Besides, Verkhovyna District is a well-known health rehabilitation center.
Famous people connected with Kryvorivnya
It was also the setting for the cult movie “Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors,” made by the legendary Ukrainian film director Sergiy Paradzhanov in 1964. The film was made after the tale with the same name. It was written in Kryvorivnya by Mykhailo Kotsyubynskyy. This movie was entered in the Guinness World Record as the most rewarded film in the world. Local Hutsuls played extras in the movie. You can visit a small museum dedicated to the movie with artefacts preserved by the local enthusiasts.
– the outstanding Ukrainian writer, politician and public figure. He accepted an invitation to come here, that he received from Volodymyr Hnatyuk, the famous Hutsul folklorist. First he came to Kryvorivnya in the end of the 18th century. He adored the surroundings here so much, he came to Kryvorivnya almost every summer with his family during 12 years. Thus V. Hnatyuk managed to turn the unknown mountain village into a “summer capital” of Ukrainian culture. While living in Kryvorivnya in 1901-1914, Ivan Franko stayed in this house, which at that time belonged to Vasyl Yakibyuk, the local carver. The museum was established in the house in 1953. Now the exposition takes three rooms. One of them represents the writer’s working room, in which he was visited by O.Kobylyanska and S.Hrushevskyy. What has been preserved is the bed in which Franko slept, a bench of that time, a clock, a little table, a Hutsul axe, which Yakibyuk gave Franko as a present, a landing net and a folding armchair, in which Kotsyubynskyy rested. In the museum of Ivan Franko you will find out why famous Ukrainian writers and public people of late IXX – early XX centuries were fond of this place for rest.
Very few people know the fact that in Grushivka quarter Mykhaylo Hrushevsky had his villa, before World War I began. He then became the first President of Ukraine. Unfortunately, the villa has not been preserved (it burnt in 1914). Nowadays it has been rebuilt and a museum was founded.
Christmas traditions in Kryvorivnya
The tradition of Christmas carolling in the village has been religiously observed for centuries. Every year the residents of the village gather in the church on Christmas day. Festively dressed young women and men anxiously await the end of the church service after which carollers gather near the church and one by one kiss the cross held by Father Ivan. Then the hatchets fly into the air, the sound of trembitas, a local form of alpine horn, resound throughout the village and the church choir going around the village from house to house singing traditional Christmas carols in hoarse voices with the words Hoi-dai-bozhe, or «may God bless you». Over a period of two weeks right up until Epiphany from the early morning until late evening, the carollers visit every of the eight hundred houses in the village singing the same Christmas carols over and over again.
The honcho of the choir named «bereza» (birch tree) must keep watch over his subordinates for their moral temper as tradition calls for maintaining spiritual and physical purity while carolling. From the moment the carollers kiss the cross in church they are not allowed to drink alcohol, flirt with young women or demonstrate indecent behaviour. They can return home to their wives only after the end of the carolling season on Epiphany. Not everybody is accepted to the group of carollers as this is a highly honorable status in Kryvorivnya.
As the carollers approach a home the sound of the trembita is resonant. The host and hostess of the house (in this region they are called ‘gazda’ and ‘gazdynya’) invite the carollers into their home for a festive dinner. First the carollers pray and then sing carols.
With warlike cries the hutsuls rhythmically throw hatchets in the air and dance in a circle. All this accompanied by the sounds of violins, bells and a trembita create an almost mystical atmosphere that instil pride in Ukrainian traditions. Then the hutsuls move on to the next home where a candle flame awaits them just as they have for hundreds of years for as long as hutsuls have inhabited Verkhovyna.
Worth to visit in Kryvorivnya
- the wooden Hutsul church of the Nativity of the Most Holy Mother of God (18th century);
- Hutsul Grazhda (national Hutsul house-fortress);
- Ivan Franko museum (which also has a lot of artefacts which represent the local way of life);
- Hrushevsky museum (dedicated to the first president of Ukraine);
- ancient Ukrainian and Polish cemetery adjacent to the Church.
We wish you a pleasant stay in Kryvorivnya.